Popular Tropical Plants

The term “Tropical Plants” refers to plants raised in an area that is always warm. Your local nursery will carry some tropical plants for growing indoors or you can buy them at Amazon.com. Some of the common ones attempted by home horticulture include:

Tropical Plants - Bamboo

Figure 1: True Bamboo

Some true Bamboo plants will survive under household conditions but will require extra care; the plant prefers to be outdoors. Bamboo needs a lot of light and may need to be placed outside periodically to maintain the best health. Many indoor plant stands can be used outdoors, and have wheels to make transporting large plants easier. For the best plant health care, be careful to not over-water Bamboo. If grown in a nursery, an atrium, or greenhouse with high humidity you will likely have a healthy Bamboo plant!

Note: Lucky Bamboo, found even in grocery stores, is not a true bamboo but a member of the lily family from the tropical rain forests of Southeast Asia and Africa. It is one of the Best Indoor Plants for Beginners because it is very easy to care for. Do not use tap water on this plant unless the water has sat out for 24 hours; change the water weekly. This common plant prefers indirect sunlight and a temperature between 65-70 degrees. Give it an occasional feeding of a mild solution.

Tropical Plants - Hibiscus

Figure 2: Hibiscus

Hibiscus is also a native tropical plant. Heat is the most important factor for this plant during the winter. Considered outdoor flowering plants in parts of North America, they must be moved indoors from the yard or garden for the colder months. The Hibiscus is grown as an indoor plant in parts of Europe, Canada and colder areas of the US. Hibiscus cleans the air and releases oxygen back into it.

Tropical Plants – Yucca

Yucca is a tough perennial shrub consisting of 40-50 species, that is flexible and low maintenance. Yucca are also among the best (indoor or garden) air cleaning plants. They are native to hot, dry areas of the Caribbean, North-, South-, and Central America. Prized as an ornamental garden plant, some of the Yuccas have edible parts: seeds, fruit, flowers, stems and some Yucca, even the roots. Be cautious though, because some Yuccas are highly poisonous plants. If you don’t know what the plant is, make sure you call your local poison control center if a person or pet ingests a Yucca.

Although you can plant it in flower pots, the Yucca does better in a raised garden bed where it will get full sun. See the wikiHow link for propagation instructions.

Tropical Plants – Cactus

Tropical Plants - Cactus Garden

Figure 3: Cactus Garden

Cactus has been part of our diet for about 9,000 years; 2,500 species are known. The plant has diverse uses such as food, drink, sealant, caulking, toy manufacturing and dye for the cosmetic industry. The Cactus is also a common house plant and found not only at the nursery but even in grocery and drugstores. Perennial Cacti are stem succulent plants and can last through severe drought by storing water in their stems, leaves and roots. They require many hours of sunlight on a daily basis and well-drained soil.

Tropical Plants – Palm Plants

Palm Plants are tropical plants that come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Some produce flowers and fruit while others are prized for their foliage. Some are so big that they can only be grown outdoors or in very large buildings, while others make wonderful little houseplants. Like Spider Plants and Cyclamen, many varieties of Palm Plants come from Africa and other tropical climates.

Tropical Plants – Orchids

Phalaenopsis and Paphiopedilum are 2 species of Orchids native to the tropics, and enjoy daytime temperatures of 73° – 85°F, with humidity at approximately 85%. They prefer an East/Southeast facing window where they can get at least 6 hours of sunlight every day. Some people simplify their Orchid care by keeping them in the window above a shower because these species love the warmth and high humidity.

Tropical Plants - Zonal Geraniums, Appleblossom

Figure 4: Zonal Geranium

The Zonal Geranium was initially discovered in South Africa, but grows well in any tropical climate globally. This is an easy plant to grow indoors, and given enough light, will bloom continuously in dazzling shades of white, pink, red, fuchsia, salmon and light purple. The flowers grow in clumps similar to Hydrangea. These plants are commonly grown in flower pots. From personal experience I would say that geranium plants will not grow from a leaf, as some recommend, but rather from a cutting of 2-3 joints; just plant it above the first joint, water it thoroughly and allow the plant to dry out before re-watering. Some geraniums are also now grown from hybrid seeds—planted in small plugs; they often are a better plant/bloom than the geranium grown from a cutting.

Tropical Plants – Gardenia

The perennial evergreen shrub, Gardenia, is from a line of 142 species of flowering tropical plants belonging to the coffee family. The gardenia is normally grown outside; some will become small trees reaching 15 m (49.2 feet).  They are native to areas of Africa, Southern Asia, Australasia, and Oceania. The leaves of this plant have a strong texture; the flowers are singles or in small clusters of white or a soft yellow. Much like Roses and Peonies, the fragrance of the gardenia is beautiful and you may enjoy it for weeks as it blossoms from mid-spring until mid-summer—IF—you learn the basics of this tricky plant’s growing conditions and regular

Flowering Plants - Gardenia

Figure 5: Potted Gardenia

The Gardenia flower is a common choice for a beautiful corsage—vying with Roses and Orchids; it is one of the most fragrant flowers for the garden or indoors. Many gardenias are classified as an endangered species such as the Hawaiian Gardenia; there are only about a dozen of the very fragrant small trees remaining. Gardenias are a rather high maintenance plant that you don’t often see in flower pots—needing specific soil acidity, lots of water and sun, cool temperatures with high humidity; pests love them—especially whiteflies, scales, spider mites and aphids.

Tropical Plants – Horticulture

Horticulture is the science, technology, and business of plant cultivation for  the advantage of mankind; working at home in your own garden or potting plants for indoors is an example of horticulture at its basic level whether it’s tropical plants, garden vegetables or a leaf from your Mother’s favorite African Violet!

Sources and Citations







http://www.chiff.com/a/lucky-bamboo.htm – research source

http://www.ask.com/explore/different-colors-geranium-flowers – research source

http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/dg1118.html – research source

http://gardening.about.com/od/plantprofiles/p/Growing-And-Caring-For-Zonal-Geraniums-Pelargonium-X-Hortorum.htm – research source

http://www.fws.gov/pacificislands/flora/higardenia.html – research source

http://www.wikihow.com/Care-for-Gardenias – research wource

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/rid-mealy-bugs-gardenia-houseplant-44955.html – research source

The Best Indoor Plants for Beginners

The best indoor plants for beginners are ones that are low maintenance and only require easily attainable equipment such as regular potting soil, or no soil at all. Some indoor planters come in  ready-made kits that makes it very easy to get started with having plants in your home. If you are like me, you like to jump into things with both feet without first having to run to 50 different stores and learn an entirely new subject before starting on a new hobby or project.

Lucky Bamboo – Best Indoor Plants for Cleanliness

Lucky bamboo is one type of plant that generally does not require potting soil. Ironically Lucky Bamboo isn’t really bamboo, but is a species of Dracaena called “Dracaena braunii” or also “Dracaena sanderiana” that grows in the tropical rainforests of west Africa. Under ideal conditions the plant will grow to 1.5 meters (5 ft) tall. In some ways these plants resemble miniature Palm Plants (also known as Bamboo Palm).

Caring for Lucky Bamboo

The Best Indoor Plants - Lucky Bamboo

Figure 1: Three Potted Lucky Bamboo

Lucky Bamboo plants are very easy to care for but it is also possible to kill them with enough neglect or unsuitable conditions. It is most commonly found in pots like the ones pictured here, and rather than growing in potting soil the roots are usually covered with stones and water. Other plants that can grow without soil are Spider Plants and Orchids, but there is much more involved with orchid care than the Lucky Bamboo. Lucky Bamboo grows slowly, but it’s important to maintain a 5 cm (2 in) depth of water, and be sure to use distilled water for best results. Replace the water in the plant pot every two weeks. Also, there are special fertilizers made for Lucky Bamboo.

Lucky Bamboo is a great plant for an office environment because it’s very clean.  Since there are no holes or potting soil with most of the plants, there’s very little cause for messes on desks. Similar to a topiary, it is possible to braid the stalk as they grow to make the plant more ornamental. Also, it thrives in fluorescent light. If you have it at home or near a window, make sure that it is not in direct sunlight, as the sun will scorch the leaves. Keep the plant away from drafts and the direct path of air vents as the changes in temperature can cause problems.

Succulents – Best Indoor Plants for Living With Neglect

Succulents are a class of plant that thrives in dry climates and are some of the best indoor plants for beginners because they can withstand a certain amount of neglect. In fact, a person who is overly attentive is more likely to kill succulent plants than one who is neglectful. They tend to hoard water within their stems, leaves and trunks and require little active care. As with any plant, over-watering will kill a succulent, but the rot will start sooner with a succulent than with a plant that requires frequent watering. An example of a succulent is the common cactus. Figure 2 shows a wide variety of succulents and some of the range of colors and shapes that they come in.

The Best Indoor Plants - Succulents

Figure 2: Mixed Succulents

Caring for Succulents

Many varieties of succulents cannot tolerate full direct sunlight. If in doubt, opt for bright, indirect light to avoid burning your plant. While most of the year your succulent plants can go long periods of time without water, in the warm season they go through a growth spurt and need more water than the rest of the time. During the growth season, a good rule of thumb is to wait until the soil is dry and then water it. A little more neglect is acceptable during the cooler seasons, but too much neglect will kill your plant, so do keep an eye on it to make sure it’s not getting too dry. If the soil looks like it’s rotting and smells sour, then you are watering your plant too frequently. Also, if the base of the plant turns brown, then it is being over-watered and is beginning to rot. Succulents prefer sandy soil with good drainage, so be sure to use flower pots with drainage holes, otherwise it is more likely that  your plant will rot.

Cyclamen – One of the Best Indoor Plants for Colors

While some Succulent plants do flower, the main attraction to both Lucky Bamboo and Succulents is their foliage. Cyclamen is one of the best indoor plants for beginners in that it has nice foliage, colorful flowers, and requires very basic plant health care, unlike Roses. Cyclamen can be grown in outdoor planters in moderate climates, but is commonly sold as an indoor plant and can liven up an indoor garden, or indoor plant stands. The flowers tend to come in shades of pink, red or white and the leaves tend to be heart shaped, as shown in Figure 3. Be cautious with Cyclamen around children and pets because it is a poisonous plant. If that is a concern, then another choice of beautiful, and relatively easy, flowering plants are African Violets.

The Best Indoor Plants - Cyclamen

Figure 3: Potted Cyclamen

Caring for Cyclamen

Much like succulents, Cyclamen tends to have a growth season and a dormant season. These flowering plants look gorgeous on most indoor plant stands, and their vivid colors bring cheer to a home. During the growth season (when leaves are present), it is best to let the soil dry between waterings, and during the dormant season (when the flowers fade) it can dry out for two to three months. If the plant gets too much water during the dormant season, the tuberous base can rot.

Cyclamen prefers ordinary potting soil, high humidity (especially during winter), low-nitrogen fertilizer, and (like most the plants featured on this page) bright, indirect light.

Sources and Citations

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dracaena_braunii – research source

http://apairandasparediy.com/2013/02/how-to-care-for-your-succulents.html – research source

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Succulent_plant – research source

http://www.extension.umn.edu/yardandgarden/ygbriefs/h145cyclamen.html – research source

http://gardening.about.com/od/houseplants/a/Cyclamen.htm – research source